Friday, 17 April 2015

Wars of the Roses Armies: Retinues & Retainers


               To my Cosyn [Syr] William Stoner.

Cosyn Stoner, y commawnde me to youe as hartely as y cane: for 
as myche as hit plesyth þe Kynges grace to have warnyd youe and 
all other to attende upon his grace, and your compeny þat ye wolde 
come in my conysans and my compeny to come with you: and I ame 
sewre þat schall plese his grace beste, and cawse me to thynke þat ye 
lofe my honor, and y trust schalbe to your sewrte. Y pray youe remembyr
this, as y schall remembyr youe in tyme to come, by þe grace of Jhesu, 
who ever preserve youe. Wreten at Lyncolne þe xj day of Octobyr.

Your hertely lovyng Cosyn ffraunceys Lovell.

Also Cosyn, þe kyng hath commawndyd me to sende youe worde 
to make youe redy, and all your compeny, in all hast to be with 
his grace at Leyceter þe Monday þe xx day of Octobyr: for I have 
sent for all my men to mete me at Bannebery, þe Soterday þe 
xviij day of Octobyr.

-Letter from Francis Viscount Lovell to Sir William Stonor, October 1483.

Besides the militia of all able-bodied men between the ages of 16-60, many of the landed gentry and nobility also maintained a body of fighting men, either on a full-time or part-time basis and were also able to persuade or compel their various estate workers, servants and tenants to take up arms on their behalf in addition. In all the relationships and obligations between individuals of various social levels formed a series of pyramidal structures, several of which would combine to form a larger whole under a high-status individual and would typically be termed a retenue, or as it is rendered in the present day his retinue.

As we have seen in previous posts, relationships between high-status individuals operated on various levels. There are the formal contracts between them, called indentures, by which they gathered armed forces to their service, originally for service in the French Wars, or for service against the Scots, but which also found use in the dynastic struggles of the Wars of the Roses. There is the less formal system of 'Livery and Maintenance', by which individuals - either as individuals, or as the leaders of men, agreed to serve another in return for patronage and protection in their own activities. Finally there were the obligations between landlord and tenant, either based on a quasi-feudal tradition of service, or as an actual clause within tenancy agreements.

Raising A Retinue

"I recommend me to you as heartily as I can; and as ever ye love
me and your own weal and security, and this realm, that ye come
to me with that ye may take, defensibly arrayed, in all the haste
that is possible, and that ye give credence to Richard Ratcliffe, this
bearer, whom I now do send to you, instructed with all my mind
and intent.

And, my Lord, do me now good service, as ye have always before
done, and I trust now so to remember you as shall be the making
of you and yours. And God send you good fortunes".

-Richard III to Lord Neville 1483

Leaders had an array of troop types to summon, ranging from men at arms and mounted archers to form 'riding retinues' and the entirety of foot soldiers, be they archers or otherwise, protected or unprotected. Richard III's summons shown here is asking for as many men with armour as can be gathered, but with the proviso that time is of the essence. Lovell's letter to Sir William Stonor is much less urgent and implies an ordered plan to combine their companies at some point on the march. In the event Stonor actually joined Buckingham's the rebellion, so the planning came to naught.

The difference between the two letters is quite subtle. Neville is promised reward for his compliance on this occasion and the letter hints that this is not the first time Neville has served. Neville is therefore either associated with Richard through the system of 'Livery and Maintenance', or has previously been a 'Well-Wisher'. The language is very different in Lovell's letter, so presumably Stonor was an indentured retainer and it was time for him to earn his annuities. There is no vagueness as far as numbers go 'your company' is a specific entity; he is to bring the men he was indentured for. 

The household accounts of the Duke of Norfolk provide two lists for military forces. The first is a list of men selected or electing to serve the Duke in early 1485 and the second is apparently one for his son Thomas the Earl of Surrey, who is taking men 'North' with the King in July 1487 (although some sources have him committed to The Tower until 1488). Both lists are quite different, the first is entirely of men who are to serve, listed either as individuals (presumably men at arms), sometimes with the addition of one or more men and occasionally listed as 'at my lords expense' (sic), or as just lists of names (and occasionally trade) under settlement and county. 

The second is a list of individuals, mostly listed as 'knights' or 'squiers', along with the numbers of men they are bringing with them. This is followed by another list of people and places who have contributed money in lieu of service and is divided into the same format of the person and how many men he is waging. Three towns (Ipswich, Bury and Walden) are also listed as contributing money. The second force lists eleven knights, nine squires and four others leading 227 men. The knights usually lead twelve men, but two lead twenty and thirty respectively and two lead just four. The squires and others typically lead six to eight men, although four lead twelve men. It is a fairly safe assumption that this is a 'riding retinue' of men at arms and mounted archers.

The first list is almost certainly a mix of retainers and a levy of tenants and servants across the entirety of Norfolk's manors and holdings. While most are located in Suffolk and Norfolk, those in other areas have individuals noted as leading them on the Duke's behalf until they come together. Given the relatively small numbers listed under the various settlements, it is probably a safe assumption that this is not a full levy of the entire male population, but a selective one. In the villages and towns 466 men are listed, with a further 45 servants from various residences of the Duke.

Ten named individuals are supplying 24 men (2-3 each) 'at my lords cost', while within these are two men serving alone, with another two names added below this list. Potentially these are Norfolk's household men at arms and archers; backed up by one of them perhaps being the 'Danyell' Norfolk earlier lavished gifts and a healthy pay packet upon to secure his services. These numbers tally with the thirty men Norfolk arrived in London with in 1483. A further 27 men listed with 'his man', three men with an additional two men, one with three, one with six and one with nine, are presumably Norfolk's retainers (to be paid by the King) and with them and the others put us in the region of the 130 men Norfolk gathered to him after he arrived in London in 1483 and the various groups he despatched to Gravesend to deal with rebels during Buckingham's revolt.        

Creating An Affinity

The apex of the affinity pyramid, York selects the White Rose for his party. Apocryphal perhaps, but the essence of factionalism is encaptured here.

By whichever method service was obtained and all were usually used in conjunction with the others, large numbers of men could be collected together to form what were effectively private armies, under the control of a single magnate. Such a collection of military (and indeed political) entities would typically be termed an individual's affinity. Usually affinities were formed over extended periods of time and rarely do they develop in such a way that we can track their progress. That of William Lord Hastings is the exception and seemingly his was built as a counter-weight to the power that Richard Neville Earl of Warwick wielded in the Midlands.

Despite being a retainer of the Duke of York, Hastings seemingly began his political career as a member of Warwick's own affinity and even married Warwick's sister Katherine, the widow of Lord Bonville. Hastings hitched himself to Edward Earl of March's star as early as the Battle of Mortimer's Cross in 1461 and was knighted by Edward at Towton the same year. As Edward built up his own affinity, Hastings was one of a close circle of individuals of relatively minor importance which Edward gathered around him (William Herbert, Walter Deveraux and Reginald Grey for example) and either eventually ennobled, or increased their landholdings and thus their importance in their local areas. Hastings in particular benefited from this process and was eventually even to include Lords amongst his retainers.

Hasting's own affinity was developed throughout the 1460s and when Edward returned from exile, Hastings was able to supply around 3,000 men to Edward's army. It is perhaps because of this power, which only grew further after 1471, that one of Richard III's first acts was to bring Hastings down. After 1471 Hastings developed his affinity by recruiting former adherents of the Earl of Warwick and the Duke of Clarence. Unusually Hasting's surviving records show only two actual indentures, the rest of his records are for expenses paid; Hastings apparently therefore seemingly made far more use of 'Livery and Maintenance' than he did indenture.

In effect Hastings's 'army' cost him very little in terms of actual money until it was actually raised. For more usual forces, life annuities were paid to retainers, so for magnates like the Earl of Warwick, the outlay of yearly cash sums to all his retainers must have been considerable. For Hastings, ensuring that his men obtained prestigious royal offices, won local elections, or became justices of the peace, cost him relatively little but obtained the same effect.

These combinations of retainers receiving annuities, those accepting patronage and protection in return for service and the wearing of livery, as well as those who were merely 'fair weather friends' - the 'well-wishers' or 'well-willers' were not automatons merely existing to serve however. They had their own lives, trials and tribulations. Even within an affinity there would be rivalries and feuds, albeit that becoming part of an affinity was often in response to such rivalries in the first place. Any affinity was far from being a happy family of diverse individuals all working towards a common goal.

Greys versus Vernons 

When Henry Vernon married the Earl of Shrewsbury's daughter Ann, the Talbot white dog and the Earl's black and red livery was added to the decor of Vernon's home Haddon Hall. This was painted on the dining room ceiling and another in the bedroom set aside for the Earl's visits. Vernon spared no effort in letting his guests know whose man he was.

In 1467 a dispute between Henry Lord Grey of Codnor and Henry Vernon Esquire, resulted in the death of Roger Vernon, Henry's uncle. Violence between the parties and their associates continued into the following year and a commission of oyer et terminer (hear and determine) under the Duke of Clarence, Earl Rivers and William Lord Hastings was established to bring it to an end. A group of local esquires were tasked with investigating the dispute, but were themselves threatened and abused by members of the affinities of the participants. Grey and Vernon ended up both being bound over with large cash sureties to keep the peace and to not interfere with the investigation.

Vernon's father in law, the Earl of Shrewsbury, distributed his 'white dog' badge to a gang of around twenty local ruffians in Bakewell, who he had hired to attack Lord Grey of Codnor in the street. Shrewsbury was Vernon's 'good lord' and unlike Vernon was under no legal restraint. Shrewsbury's hirelings were confident that his badge and influence would protect them from the gallows if things went wrong, as he was now their 'good lord' too, at least until the job was done. One of the men hired was previously associated with the Vernon's and had been implicated in the murder of another Vernon enemy some years before. Presumably things did not go well however, as Shrewsbury himself was subsequently bound over, but nevertheless Grey must have gotten the message that was being sent at least.

The local nobles and gentry polarised into two factions, with Walter Blount Lord Mountjoy prominent in the anti-Vernon camp, while Vernon had the locally influential Longford family in his corner, one of whom was a justice of the peace on the commission. That Henry Vernon had to be removed as a juror at one point, highlights perhaps the abuses possible, as well as an element of high farce. The dispute also divided the heads of the commission. Clarence favoured Vernon (and subsequently became his 'good lord'), while Rivers, Hastings and ultimately the King, all favoured Grey (who was distantly related to Rivers and Edward's queen Elizabeth). Mountjoy was also a royal favourite and later a retainer of Hastings himself. 

Acts Against Retaining

The result of this comedy of errors was the 1468 Statute Against Retaining, which built on an earlier statute of 1461 against illegal retaining. With the exception of domestic servants, estate officials and legal counsel, the giving of livery or badges, except with the express permission of the King, was now made illegal. Indentures made before 1458 were also declared void, which released a number of individuals from life contracts and allowed them to re-align themselves to the new order that came in with Edward's reign. 

A loophole which allowed for retaining for 'lawful purpose' did however create difficulties with enforcing the statute. In principle however, the King could at least attempt to limit retaining to those he trusted. It may at least have been partially successful, as the armies of 1469-71 made far more use of the militia than had previously been the case. Evidence for the success of these statutes is hard to come by, but the fact that Shrewsbury was forced to hire men to do his dirty work, does imply he had none of his own to do the job; unless of course he was 're-badging' Vernon retainers for their and their master's protection.

Retaining continued however and all but five of some sixty nine indentures made by Lord Hastings were made after 1468. Even the Duke of Gloucester retained the Earl of Northumberland in 1474. For the King both livery and maintenance and retaining in general were necessary social evils. They allowed local magnates to hold a balance of power in areas far from Westminster Palace and by judicious use of royal power, the 'wrong people' could be hampered in their efforts to build affinities.

Had the Earl of Warwick and the Duke of Clarence not fostered rebellion in 1469, it is doubtful that there could have even been a Lancastrian readeption, such was the balance of power amongst the hardcore Yorkists. Richard III continued the good work against a system which, although it had enabled both his father and brother to amass armies to seize the crown, would be the very thing which could take it away from them too and very nearly did in 1469.

The Red Coats Are Coming

During his brief reign Richard wrote to various sheriffs and councils forbidding the wearing of any liveries in public that were not his own; that is to say a livery for 'royal troops' - rather than that of his own household. Some form of uniform livery jacket therefore, like the white livery with a red St. George's cross that we normally associate with English soldiers during the Hundred Years War, over which 'bends' in their captain's livery colours appear to have been worn.

In Richard's case this is believed to have been a red coat. Sir William Stanley's men, who were largely raised by commission of array, are popularly represented as having been in red livery with his stag's head badge. The Duke of Norfolk bought large quantities of red cloth in 1485 too, along with smaller quantities of blue cloth, which previously he had regularly bought for his household's own livery jackets (along with red and tawny for his inner circle). Lord Stanley's livery is also sometimes referred to as being blue (and again his famous 'tawny and green' may have been a household one).

It is possible therefore, but by no means certain, that a red coat with the badge of its captain, may have marked troops directly in the service of the king (theoretically at least) at Bosworth, if not before. The whole concept of having household liveries and one for the rank and file makes a sort of sense. After un-dyed cloth (i.e. 'white'), deep red and blue were the cheapest colours, the richer brighter colours required more expensive dyes and more time in process, so naturally cost more. When you are outfitting a couple of hundred people it is not so expensive, but thousands of men require a lot of cloth.

Certainly during Henry VII's reign, green and white was the colour for troops raised by commissions of array and while the colours are not specified, the French supplied material for livery jackets for Henry's French contingent 'in his colours' in 1485. Buckingham's 3,000 coats for his 'army' may have been for the same purpose; we are moving into an age where uniformity, rather than a rainbow of livery coats is desired - a feature of continental warfare at this time. Burgundian nobles (including Duke Charles) had their own liveries for their households, but the permanent rank and file wore the blue and white 'state' colours. In France too there was supposedly uniformity of livery colour across the Bandes Françaises and each compagnie d'ordonnance had its own colour.

1 comment:

  1. You're welcome Pat. I got enjoyment out of doing the research and I was fairly certain folk would like reading it, so there you are, everybody wins! :-D

    ReplyDelete